Monday, December 24, 2012

Vera Ellen

I have become obsessed with the movie White Christmas. Only merely aware of its existence before this holiday season, we started watching it on Netflix and after a couple of viewings I fell totally in love.

Nearly everything in the movie--the performances, the music, the comedy, the Technicolor cinematography--is perfect, but the real stand-out to me was Vera Ellen, who plays Judy Haynes, half of the musical act The Hayne Sisters. She does virtually all the dancing in the film, and she is tremendous. Her vitality practically jumps off the screen, and she is a joy to watch. She's funny, cute, sexy, and more than matches the movie-star wattage of her much more famous co-stars.
Of her co-stars (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney), Vera-Ellen went into--and came out of--White Christmas as the least famous participant, and sadly it seems co-starring in the one of the biggest movie hits in history didn't do much for her career: she appeared in just one more film, then retired a few years after a personal tragedy. She died in 1981.

I was inspired to pay tribute to Ms. Ellen, so I did this little portrait of her as a way to say "thanks" for her amazing work in White Christmas. I see myself watching the movie again and again, even after the season is over...

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Walking Dead

A friend commissioned me to do this original Universal Monsters-style poster for his current favorite TV series, AMC's The Walking Dead. I asked him what three characters he wanted represented on the side, and after he gave me his choices it was like rolling down hill!

People have previously asked me to consider doing posters this style of more modern horror/sci-fi icons, and for the most part I've rejected that idea, since I really can't bring the same level of passion to drawing Freddy, Jason, etc., that I did to Frankenstein, the Wolf Man. But this design I've constructed seems so durable, and is so fun to work with, that maybe I'll reconsider...

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Now it can be told!

Earlier in the year my normal prodigious illustration output slowed to a crawl. Part of that is because of my increased Ace Kilroy workload, but that was also because, as I alluded to a couple of times, I was in the middle of a big illustration project and it just didn't leave me with much time to do anything else.

Well, now said project is out for all to see (and buy)--it's a RPG called Control-Alt-Hack, which is "a tabletop card game about white hat hacking, based on game mechanics by gaming powerhouse Steve Jackson Games (Munchkin and GURPS)."

Not being a gamer, I had no idea what any of that meant when I landed the job, and I still don't. My part of the game was to produce twenty portrait illustrations, loosely based on real people turned into characters for game play. Here are some promo shots from the Control-Alt-Hack site:
Each character was shown in a sort of action pose, doing something that was specific to them: dancing, blogging, cooking, etc. They were detail-intensive and my part of the game took quite a while; I worked on it from March through July, one of the longest projects I've ever been involved in.

Here are a couple of the other portraits as I delivered them to the client:
It was an enormous challenge working on Control-Alt-Hackers; it required a lot of concentration and organization. And while that's normally not a problem for me, sometimes the illustrations were in so many different stages of completion that I had to whip up an Excel spreadsheet to keep it all straight.

But in the end I was glad to be asked to do it, and am proud of the final results. I've not been asked to do this kind of project before so I was happy to expand my portfolio a bit.

If you're a gamer and this sounds like something you'd be interested in playing, use this Amazon link to order the game:

...once you get the game, pick out your favorite characters and send me the cards; I'll return 'em autographed!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Smithsonian - Nov. 2012

I drew the contributor portraits for the November 2012 edition of Smithsonian magazine--nine illustrations in all, though one had to be dropped because the author's piece was bumped from the issue.

I used to like putting heavy outlines on all my illustrations, now I kinda prefer open color holds like you see here. For portraits this small, it helps each piece breathe, I think.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video Detective Villain of the Week

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted anything new; I've been so busy with other projects that I really haven't had time to produce anything new outside of client work, a lot of which wasn't really worth showcasing here.

One exception are the series of portraits I've for, a website featuring trailers for movies, TV shows, games, and more. Back in July, they came up with this idea for a "villain of the week", who would be picked from whatever big movie was coming out that week. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, I produced these every week from August through October. Starting in November, they changed their frequency monthly--the better to give people more time to see them, and enter the contest associated with each one.

Below are all of the VOTWs I've done so far; I think they got better as I went along and they've been a lot of fun to do. I hope I can keep doing them!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Video Detective: Grassroots

I am now finally putting the finishing touches on this big project I've been involved with, so I've had time to work on some other stuff--case in point, this portrait I did for the website Video Detective, which features thousands of trailers for all the latest movies, TV shows, and games.

For the next month, maybe longer, I'll be producing an original illustration based on a movie that comes out that week--and for this inaugural effort, I picked the indie film Grassroots, starring Jason Biggs (American Pie) and Joel David Moore (Avatar) about a ordinary citizen who decides to run for Seattle city council.

I went with the traditional campaign poster colors with a messy, almost hand-made look, like they were done with silkscreens, one by one, and then pasted up around the city. And since this Mr. Moore's first lead role, I made him the focus of the poster, rather than his character. Because, of course, if Grassroots is a big hit, this won't be the last time Moore is the lead!

Each week's portrait will appear on the Video Detective Facebook page on Fridays. So be sure to head over there and check out what I'm doing--and if you like it, be sure to Like, Share, and Comment. If they're a big enough hit, maybe I'll be doing these for more than this month!

Friday, May 25, 2012


For the last three years, I've celebrated the birthday of Dolly Menck, the PitBull daughter of my friends Laura and Ric Menck, with a custom-made movie poster, chronicling her adventures across the country forwarding the cause of animal rights.

I imagined an old school, star-studded adventure, a mash-up of the let's-hit-the-road fun of films like The Muppet Movie and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with classic Hollywood social commentary seen in classics like Gentlemen's Agreement and 12 Angry Men. It started with Miss Dolly Goes To Washington:

Dolly, having brought attention to her cause, decided to go one step further and run for President, as chronicled in Dolly For President:

Well, when May 25 rolled around again, I felt like I had to complete the trilogy! Dolly, now President of the United States, brought the country together and earned her place in history as one of the nation's greatest leaders, as shown in Canine-In-Chief:
This time around, we've got a mostly new cast (backing Cate Blanchett and James Cromwell, back for a third time as Laura and Ric), a new big-time musician providing the soundtrack, and a new director. All in all, these three films will make for one hell of a DVD boxed set!

Happy Birthday Dolly!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mrs. Joker

I'm still in the middle of this big illustration project that's eating up most of my time and energy; consequently I haven't had the inclination to work on anything new.

But last night I found myself with a few moments of free time so I just sort of doodled around and I created this Mrs. Joker character. It's not Harley Quinn; it's definitely some distaff version of the Clown Prince of Crime!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow is my hero.

I guess I should clarify--the Clarence Darrow portrayed by Spencer Tracy in the 1960 film classic Inherit The Wind is my hero. I saw that film for the first time when I was a teenager, and it struck a real chord with me. All my life, I've always been the kind of person that has valued reason over superstition, science over religion. The real life Darrow (called Henry Drummond in the film) was very much that kind of guy, though he took his beliefs to an extreme edge, refusing to compromise what he believed in even though it would, frequently, enrage a lot of people who would have normally been on his "side."

Aside from the film version, I never actually knew that much about the real man, but I knew enough to know that there was no way he could have been as heroic and perfect as the Spencer Tracy version (who could?). So a few weeks ago I started reading John A. Farrell's Clarence Darrow: Attorney For The Damned to learn more about the actual Darrow, and I've been enjoying the book immensely.

So I whipped up this little portrait, trying to convey some of the dark forces that Darrow did battle with, both in society and inside himself. I liked how it came out, all hard edges and extreme lights and darks.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Spy Next Door

I'm in the middle of a huge illustration project that features multiple illustrations, all being worked on in varying stages, and for the past few weeks that's been eating up all of my time--and it will continue to do so for at least the next few weeks. So I haven't had a lot of time to work on anything else.

But while taking a pause in between stages of the project, I decided to dabble on this, another
faux-paperback book cover. Nothing at all ambitious going on here, but still fun to work on. Be careful if she asks to borrow a cup of sugar!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Margaret Cho on Melissa Harris-Perry

They, this was a nice surprise! On yesterday's episode of Melissa Harris-Perry (which airs weekend mornings on MSNBC), they had on Margaret Cho to discuss women's self-image. During the segment they ran the above graphic, featuring my portrait of her from the "Revolution" tour! Ginchy!

You can watch the whole interview below, "my" part comes in at the 10:15 mark:

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Taylor Swift

I hadn't done a straightforward portrait in a while, so I thought why not go with someone contemporary (as opposed to some ancient horror movie actor, who tend to be my muses), and you really can't get anymore more "now" than superstar Taylor Swift.

An astonishingly beautiful young woman, I modeled this idea on the poster for Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, which consisted of a simple caricature of star Veronica Lake on a field of yellow. My version's not so cartoony of course, but it comes from the same super-minimalist idea.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Warren 2012

My affection/admiration/slight crush on Elizabeth Warren is well established. I very much hope she defeats Scott Brown and becomes the next Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

I realize she'd never ever utilize a poster this strident, but what the hell. I made it anyway.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monster PSA: Alfonso Bedoya

I didn't have any intention of doing a new Monster PSA poster, but then a fan of my work (who has graciously bought prints of my stuff in the past to decorate his "Man Cave") asked if I would consider doing a PSA of Alfonso Bedoya.

Bedoya's claim to fame is his appearance in the classic The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, where he gets to utter the immortal line "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!" (He actually doesn't say those exact words, but that doesn't matter anymore). I considered the request, figuring I'd get to it at some point.

Then the other night I found myself not ready to go to sleep, and simultaneously not wanting to work on other projects I had going, so I tore into this and within a few hours it was finished! It turned out being one of my favorites of the last few PSAs I've done--the portrait, the colors, and the modified tagline all seemed to hang together fairly well.

My patron felt the same, and as you read this the poster is on its way to him. Sometimes things just work out!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Comedy Film Nerds

Last Christmas, I ordered an item called a "Chillpak" (a pad that keeps your laptop cool) from the online store of Comedy Film Nerds, a movie/comedy podcast hosted by Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini that I subscribe to.

When the package arrived, it came with a promo postcard for the show, and for whatever reason I got in my head that I wanted to redesign it. I got the overall concept in my head (such as it is), and finally just got around to putting it together over the weekend. The loose idea I hung the design on was that Graham and Chris both featured the same nerdriffic quote (which they end every show with) in their HS yearbooks, meaning they were destined to come together years later and do a show.

As I do with all these graphic design-only pieces, I had a ton of fun putting this together, and I was so happy with it I sent it to Graham and Chris. I don't expect them to do anything with it, I just figured they'd get a kick out of seeing it.

Han shot first!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Orange Sketch

I basically just tried my hand at another glamour-y illustration, the like the one I did yesterday. I added and subtracted various elements until I somehow determined this piece was "finished." I have no idea what any of it means, either!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Purple Sketch

This is another instance of me fooling around, trying to get a rougher, looser look for my style. I'm actually pretty happy with how this turned out, it looks pretty close to what I saw in my head!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Callaway Golf Clubs Storyboards

This was a series of storyboard panels I did for Callaway Golf Clubs, via the Concept Farm agency.

I don't get the chance to do storyboards very much (the last time I did them was back in 2010, for Estee Lauder), so I really sank my teeth into this job--I love doing storyboards, figuring out how to pace and frame the "story" as effectively as possible.

These boards are for a thirty-second spot, where a bunch of golfers are shocked to see a Big Time Golf Pro walk by, who shows them some new Callaway-brand clubs. The guys ooh and ah, with the spot ending with all of them using the clubs and having lots of fun.

When I do storyboards, I use a sort of hybrid of my standard illustrating style mixed with freehand penciling; they're not necessarily all that pretty to look at but they tell the story, and that's ultimately the most important thing.

Both Callaway and Concept Farm were happy with the panels, as was I--I had a lot of fun. I hope it won't be another year and a half before someone asks me to do a job like this again!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Girl With The Dragon Jacket

This is just me fooling around with a fashion-y, brightly colored-type thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Waking Up With The Lord/Brown Bag Logos

These are two logos I was commissioned to create from my friend, the Reverend Mac Schafer. Mac hosts several different community groups dealing with faith-based topics and whatever else is on people's minds. He had ideas of what he wanted, and then asked me to put them together.

I don't get to do this kind of work much, but I really enjoy it. They require a bit more finesse and clarity than my portraits, so it was a nice change of pace!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Skull Awaits

I have absolutely no idea the hows or whys of this image, it simply popped into my head one day and so I got it down as best I could. I knew I wanted a spooky guy sitting in the dark, with the outline (inline?) of a skull superimposed over him. So that's what I did.

I also have no idea what "The Skull Awaits" is--a book, a movie? Your guess is as good as mine!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Saul Bass' F For Fake

For better or for worse, I'm still in my Saul Bass phase, and Orson Welles' F For Fake--which is all about trickery and deception--seemed an appropriate subject for this approach. After all, that looks like Orson Welles, but maybe it isn't? And the poster tells us he's in it, but then it says he's not...what's going on here?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vincent Price

Sometimes I just like to doodle...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Saul Bass' Charley Varrick

I meant to get around this Saul Bass-inspired poster for one of my favorite underrated films, Charley Varrick, but the holidays ate up so much of my time I didn't get to until the first of the new year.

I'm not totally in love with how I executed my final idea, but that's how it goes sometimes. I am totally in love with the overall concept--two men standing by a bag full of money. The blood dripping from it signifies the heap of trouble they find themselves in when they realize they've stolen mob money.

If you've never seen Charley Varrick, I recommend you do so. Its a tough, gritty crime thriller, with a great central performance by Walter Matthau, who could hardly do no wrong in the 1970s.